FINDING APPROVAL: Thinking with Marilyn Chin, Dreaming with Osadebay, And Waking Up To J.P. Clark

“I hate school.” Those three words were possibly the first ones that I uttered for they taunt me every day. Yes, they torment me because regardless of this known fact, I find myself still in school, less than a year away from attaining my first degree. I view nothing inherently wrong with school itself, yet the very fact that my entire life has been defined by the classroom is the sad reality that gnaws at my heart.

Off to School

Nmadiuto Ndidi Amaka should be her name,

Yes, it is difficult to pronounce but we would leave it that way.

Her teachers at school would get used to it soon

And we would write it on a placard until she turns two.

We want her to be the best at all we tell her to do,

For that is how she would become useful to you.

In this piece, I imitate Chin’s style of starting off with an identity poem. In the identity poem, Off to School, I incorporate what I view as my defining moment, being sent to school before I was a year old. Although I make use of “we” in this poem, this plural pronoun actually stands for one person, my father. Thus, I incorporate another element from Chin’s confession, the subject matter of a father. Also, I imitate the form of Chin’s Confessions by mixing poetry and prose together.

I cannot say I hated my first day of school. This can be attributed to the fact that at the age of 1, I was barely able to distinguish between what I didn’t like and what I did like. My family seemed happy about it and that made me even more upset. I crawled through the corners of my first class, with my soiled diapers, and watched the sliding doors every hour for when I would be taken home. Not long after, I realized that there were more discomforts from attending school than being in soiled diapers.

My father demanded academic perfection through my elementary and post-elementary education. Each failed question on tests and exams came with corporal punishment. I viewed excelling in school as a way of gaining approval despite being left with no choice but to accept courses mapped out for me and to sacrifice what I really wanted to be.

A Young Child’s Plea

Don’t discipline me to the point that I become unrecognizable

Don’t mold me to suit your taste.

I know I am but a child and have lived without much experience

But please listen to what I have to say:

Let me discover my talents, let me have untrammeled growth

Let me fail and excel,

Then in sweet rebirth, I would rise a wiser girl

Not ashamed to face the world.

To admit what I can do and cannot do.

Thankful I would remain to you,

Who permits me to embark on this journey of finding me.

It was my wish to portray this father and daughter tension by means of a poem that contains a similar struggle. Hence, I modeled the poem, Young Child’s Plea after Dennis Osadebay’s Young Africa’s Plea. The titles are similar and it starts off with a command and ends with a plea like Osadebay’s. In this poem, I am pleading to be allowed to discover talents and subjects that I am really interested in rather being commanded to follow a certain path.

I was raised in a culture where a child, especially a girl child, has little say in her education. What! You want to be a journalist! Do not expect me to pay for your education. When you find a real profession, you can apply to a college. That was the sort of reaction one of my older sisters got from my father when she expressed her desired ambition. As the last of 6 girls, I knew my time would come soon. There was no need to know what I truly wanted to be at heart, for my future was already cut out for me. Consequently, I flew the coop.

Inner Exchange


My dear friend, who never lies

Tell me what you think.

My dear friend who knows me from within

Air your thoughts to me.

Have I pleased those who have toiled

To give me what many desire and yet do not have?


You cannot know and should not bother,

People come and go

And so shall your father.

By following the format of J.P. Clark’s Streamside Exchange, I am able to come to the conclusion of what my unpopular career decision will come to in the poem, Inner Exchange.  In Streamside Exchange, a bird expresses to a child, the undeniable truth that her mother would die one day. The final three verses directly lifted from Streamside Exchange sums it up perfectly indicating my father’s opinion would not always matter.

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2 thoughts on “FINDING APPROVAL: Thinking with Marilyn Chin, Dreaming with Osadebay, And Waking Up To J.P. Clark

  • May 24, 2016 at 8:23 am

    This is a really beautiful piece, Nma. I saw a link from your blog on my LinkedIn page and decided to follow. And then when I liked what I read, I decided to to start from the beginning, and I discovered this piece, and I love it. You’re really talented. And I love this piece.


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